3 Types of Skin Burns and How To Treat Them With First Aid
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A burn is damage to the skin or underlying tissue usually caused by heat, but also by chemicals, electricity, or radiation such as with a sunburn. There are 3 levels of severity: first, second, and third. With third degree burns being the most serious.
First Degree Burns
A first degree burn damages only the top layer of skin. The skin is red, dry, and painful. The area may swell. Most sunburns are first degree burns. These types of burns heal withing 5 or 6 days without permanent scarring.
Second Degree Burns
A second degree burn damages both layers of skin i.e. the epidermis and the dermis. Heat, very severe sunburn, and some chemicals can cause this type of burn. The skin is red and has blisters that may open and leak clear fluids making the skin appear wet. The burned skin may look patchy and is usually feels painful. This type of burn heals in 3 or 5 weeks with some scarring possible.
Third Degree Burns
A third degree burn destroys both layers of skin as well as any or all of the underlying structures i.e. nerves, blood vessels, fat, muscles, and bones. Severe heat, fire, and electricity such as lightning can cause this kind of burn. These burns look either charred or waxy white. They are usually painless because the nerve endings in the skin have been destroyed. Despite the lack of pain, these kinds of burns are prone to infection and can be life threatening. Treatment often involves skin grafts.
There are 5 main sources of burns: electricity, radiation (sun), heat, chemical, and friction. Some tips for avoiding burns include:
- Keep matches away from children.
- Never store gasoline or other highly flammable substances indoors.
- Do not put water on a grease fire.
- Never use electrical appliances near water.
- Repair or discard frayed cords.
- Go inside when there’s a thunderstorm.
- Stay way from tall objects if caught outside during a thunderstorm.
First Aid for Burns
For first and second degree burns you should cool the area immediately with gently running cold water for about 10-15 minutes or until the burned area has cooled. This will help remove the heat from the tissue so the burning will stop. Do not apply ointments unless told to do so by a physician or pharmacist. And do not break any blisters. Keep the area as clean as possible. If a first or second degree affects a large area of the body or affects a sensitive area (e.g. eyes, throat, face, chest) then medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.
For third degree burns do not put anything on the burn. Instead seek professional medical help immediately and treat the person for shock. Third degree burns are life threatening even when only a small body part is effected.
For electrical burns, check for an exit wound as well as treating for the entrance wound.
For chemical burns, flush the area with lots of water to get it off the person’s skin.
Never apply ointments, butter, or other home remedies on burns, as this may make the burn worse, keep the heat trapped in, or cause an infection.